“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
This year of service with Hands on Hartford at Community Meals has led me to meet many great people. When I began this year, I knew that I would both serve and be served. Doing service is like that; it’s reciprocal. You can’t give and not receive something in return. I knew that going into this experience. What I didn’t know was how many people would serve me or how big of an impact they would have on my life.
Hands On Hartford is made up of a passionate, dedicated team. Every single staff member and board member is full of grace and love. Their compassion shines through in the work they do to bring help to those in need in Hartford. Each person I have interacted with on this team has inspired me to keep pouring myself into my work at Community Meals. We all know that the work we do helps someone in a very real, tangible way, and we also know that we couldn’t do it alone.
The volunteers and donors who make it possible to run Hands On Hartford have also served me this year, especially the volunteers who come to Community Meals. Many come regularly to serve lunch or dinner, giving of their time and treasure to keep our meal program going. Their dedication and enthusiasm remind me of why I signed up to do this year of service in the first place. They are open to each client who walks through our door, ready to serve the meal with a smile and some conversation. They give of themselves freely and fully, putting aside their work and personal cares for a while to serve meals. Their dedication to service in the midst of their busy lives has continually reignited my passion for service; I know that even when this year of full-time service is over, I plan to serve regularly wherever I go.
The clients I have met this year have served me in the most unexpected of ways. So many small interactions have touched me and given me strength and hope this year. I will never forget one time I opened the door five minutes late in the morning. After I apologized, someone said to me, “It’s okay, you’re only human.”
You’re only human. That has stayed with me through the challenges of this year. Sometimes, when you are in the profession of helping people, it can feel as though you are seen as more than human. You give and give, serve and serve, and you don’t show your frustration or impatience, hunger or exhaustion. Clients depend on you, no matter what you may be going through on the inside. To be seen and recognized as only human, even if by one person, gave me the strength and freedom to know that I cannot always do everything perfectly, but I can do my best to serve and give to the people I meet. With grace and love in my heart and soul, I can be great enough to serve others, inspired and encouraged by the other great people—clients, volunteers, and staff alike—who serve me.
Mercy Volunteer at Hands On Hartford